UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Israeli forces killed three Palestinians and wounded at least 618 Palestinians on Friday when live bullets and tear gas were fired at participants in weekly protests on the Gaza-Israel border, medics said.
The Israeli army said it had moved to disperse some 10,000 Palestinians, some of whom threw stones at soldiers and set fire to tires and to prevent any breach of the fortified border fence.
Health officials say Israeli forces have killed at least 122 Palestinians in protests on the Gaza Strip’s borders since the March 30 return marches that raise the demand for return to ancestral land that became part of Israel in 1948.
Israel says among the dead are gunmen who used civilians as cover to launch attacks with weapons and bombs and cross-border infiltration attempts.
Protest organizers linked Friday’s demonstrations to the anniversary of Iran’s annual “Jerusalem Day”, which calls for the destruction of Israel, such as Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. The US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December raised the movement’s anger.
“There is no state called Israel to have a capital called Jerusalem,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, adding that protests demanding the end of the siege on the Gaza Strip would continue.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called the protesters in Gaza on Twitter “fools driven by hatred.”
Israel has not suffered any casualties in confrontations more than two months on the border with the Gaza Strip. But Israel says it has lost farmland and grasslands on its side of the border after Palestinian kite planes carrying burning material set fire to it.
Medics said Friday’s dead were two men and a 15-year-old boy, adding that 120 of the injured were wounded by live bullets.
Health officials said one of the injured on Friday was a photographer working for Agence France-Presse and a 23-year-old man placed on rations after a shrapnel penetrated his face.
“We are not asking for the moon,” said Amer Abu Khalaf, a 20-year-old business student who took part in the protests. “The protests are aimed at breaking the siege and pushing the world to recognize our right to return.”
The death toll from Israeli actions against Gaza protesters has drawn international criticism but the United States has blamed Hamas.